David L. Schindler is Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family; he is also editor of Communio (English edition). He is, in my estimation, one of the leading Catholic theologians and thinkers in the English-speaking world (he has also, over the years, edited and translated several books published by Ignatius Press). He has just posted a piece on HeadlineBistro.com (a Knights of Columbus news site; ht: CNA), about Christopher West's recent interview on ABC's "Nightline" program and the many reactions to that piece and West's teachings about Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body":
What, then, are the objections to West’s theology?
First, West misconstrues the meaning of concupiscence, stressing purity of intention one-sidedly when talking about problems of lust.
When I first pointed this problem out to him several years ago, his response was that he refused to limit the power of Christ to transform us. My response is that concupiscence dwells "objectively" in the body, and continues its "objective" presence in the body throughout the course of our infralapsarian existence; and that we should expect holiness to "trump" temptations or disordered tendencies in the area of sexuality exactly as often as we should expect holiness to "trump" the reality of having to undergo death.
Second, West has an inadequate notion of analogy. He conceives love in a reductive bodily-sexual sense, then reads the Christian mysteries as though they were somehow ever-greater and more perfect realizations of what he emphasizes as key in our own experience, namely, sex.
But sex is not even the most important part of human love, let alone the key to the Christian mysteries–the Eucharist, for example. Missing in West’s work is an adequate idea of the radical discontinuity (maior dissimilitudo ) between the divine love revealed by God–and indeed the (supernatural) love to which we are called–and sexual love or intercourse. To be sure, the spousal love between man and woman is central in man’s imaging of God, and the gendered body and sexual relations are an integral sign and expression of spousal love, which also includes what John Paul II calls all the other manifestations of affection. However, as Joseph Ratzinger says, it is only because man has a capacity for God that he also has a capacity for another human being. The former indicates the “content,” the latter the “consequence,” of man’s likeness to God.
In the end, West, in his disproportionate emphasis on sex, promotes a pansexualist tendency that ties all important human and indeed supernatural activity back to sex without the necessary dissimilitudo.
Make sure to read the entire piece so as to get the complete context of Schindler's remarks.
In one of his books, Theology of the Body Explained, West thanked Schindler for "helping me better articulate the nature of the spousal analogy and for providing various references for this work."
Previous posts on this topic:
• Jimmy Akin on Hugh Heffner's achin'... (May 14, 2009)
• Going to the Source of the Christopher West Controversy (May 13, 2009)
• "The Playboy and the Pope" (May 12, 2009)
• Christopher West: "I never said Hugh Hefner is a hero, never..." (May 11, 2009)
• "Catholicism, properly understood ... is one of the sexiest of the world's religions." (May 7, 2009)